The Car Connection Acura RLX Overview
The Acura RLX is a full-size luxury sedan and the biggest, most technology-rich offering in the brand's lineup. The RLX brings with it several new features highlighting its place in the brand. A new all-wheel-drive (AWD) system with advanced torque vectoring is the basis for the hybrid model. The front-drive version, meanwhile, has rear-wheel steering, delivered by a pair of actuators linked by wire to the electric power steering system.
The RLX replaced the RL in the automaker's lineup starting with the 2014 model year and has now already moved to its third model year, as a 2016 model, after two abbreviated model-year runs. The RLX is meant to move Acura upmarket with its pricing and equipment options.
MORE: Read our 2016 Acura RLX review
Technology aside, the more luxurious and spacious interior may be just as deserving of the new name. With 2 inches more in the wheelbase and 2 inches greater width, the RLX offers more cabin space in about the same length as the old RL.
Styling is attractive but hardly radical, with a typically aggressive Acura stance and a smooth, arched roofline fronted by "Jewel Eye" LED headlamps—framed in a dual-stacked array, with ultra-reflective optical lenses, that should be distinctive day or night.
The RLX gets its power from a version of Honda's latest 3.5-liter V-6. On front-wheel-drive models, it makes 310 horsepower and is mated to a 6-speed automatic with paddle shifters and a sport shift setting. The RLX Sport Hybrid pairs the V-6 with a trio of electric motors—one situated with the engine and transmission on the front axle and two for the rear axle to provide all-wheel drive and torque vectoring, which helps save weight compared to the previous mechanical SH-AWD system. The Sport Hybrid uses a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic and returns a 30-mpg EPA combined rating.
All RLX models include both forward collision warning and lane departure warning, with lane keep assist as an addition to the latter. The RLX has aced the IIHS tests, earning it the Top Safety Pick+ award from the IIHS. The RLX has also earned a perfect, five-star rating across the board by federal testers and is one of a small number of cars to ace The Car Connection's safety rating.
Outside of the choice to go hybrid/AWD or not, the Acura RLX initially came in five trim grades: RLX, RLX with Navigation, RLX with Technology package, RLX with Krell Audio package, and RLX with Advance package. The navigation system includes surface-street traffic, and security features include stolen vehicle tracking, airbag deployment notification, remote locking and unlocking, and 24-hour concierge services. Infotainment systems use both an embedded data connection and smartphone integration. The RLX features a next-generation AcuraLink Communication system, with dual LCD display screens, high-end audio, the Aha streaming-audio interface, and an expanded range of infotainment and connectivity features.
While the Sport Hybrid model was sold briefly as a 2014 model, Acura skipped it over entirely for the 2015 model year. This on-again-off-again sales situation could signal an issue that Acura found with the cars, possibly for something the company wanted to improve before building more. Acura has been delaying products of late, including the new TLX sedan, to make sure they're ready for consumption, and something similar could have held up the interesting all-wheel-drive hybrid RLX.
After a very brief 2015 model year, the RLX gets a small reboot with some updates for the 2016 model, which arrives early in 2015. The car's standard and available safety-feature set has been updated and is now collected under the AcuraWatch banner. The tech now includes a surround-view camera, road-departure mitigation, and cross-traffic monitoring. The suspension has been retuned for improved ride quality, reduced noise, and better handling, and all models now come standard with 19-inch wheels. Acura has also trimmed the trim-level options from five to three, doing away with what was previously the base model and effectively raising the price. As a result, all models now include navigation and some other equipment. The standard V-6 model is already on sale, while the Sport Hybrid will return to the lineup in the spring; Acura will detail its price and trim levels closer to that time.